Supreme Court Hearing Poses Threat to Voting Rights Act

Updated: Mar 6

On Tuesday, March 2, the Supreme Court will hear two cases about Arizona's restrictions on ballot collection which could take a blow to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This will limit efforts to combat racial discrimination in voting.

The two cases to be heard are Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, which requires ballots cast in the wrong precinct to be discarded, and Arizona Republican Party vs. Democratic National Committee, which prohibits many forms of third-party ballot collection, in which a voter gives their absentee ballot to someone else to deliver. The two laws discriminate against Native American, Latinx, and African American voters.

Between 2008 and 2016 Arizona rejected more than 38,335 votes that were cast in the wrong precinct and according to the DNC minority voters were twice as likely as white voters to have their ballots rejected.

Furthermore, 96 percent of non-native Americans live on postal routes while 26 percent of Native Americans do. Therefore, many rely heavily on third parties to cast mail-in ballots as they lack traditional mailing addresses and experience unreliable mail delivery.

These cases are an important test to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which already suffered a critical blow in 2013 with the Supreme Courts' ruling in Shelby County v. Holder. The Shelby decision left Section 5 of the law unenforceable. The Court struck down preclearance requirements previously subject to the Voting Rights Act.

This made certain places with a history of voting discrimination like Arizona not need to submit their voting laws to the federal government. This left Section which states "results in a denial or abridgment of the right of any citizen of the U.S. to vote on account of race or color" is illegal, the most important tool for litigators to challenge voting policies.

The Supreme Court has a 6-3 Republican majority which includes justices who have shown great opposition toward voting rights and in past years the Supreme Court has not been on the side of voting advocates, leaving the possible ruling of the case a concern.

A decision is expected by early summer.


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